Another factor that has helped soften the blow to arts businesses is that many wealthy individuals have seen their fortunes grow in the past year. The report notes that while the number of billionaires fell by 30% in 2009 during the Great Recession and their collective wealth fell by 45%, the number of billionaires worldwide increased by 7% last year and their wealth increased 32% year over year. . The rush of galleries opening outposts in places like Palm Beach, East Hampton and Aspen reflects dealers’ efforts to reach large groups of wealthy people in places where many have chosen to ride out the worst of the pandemic.
“People were there and they had money, especially at the high end, and were really looking for ways to spend it,” McAndrew said. “There weren’t many other outlets for more discretionary purchases.”
Of more than 2,500 wealthy people interviewed for the report, two-thirds said the pandemic had increased their interest in fundraising. Among these wealthy collectors, millennials were the biggest spenders, with 30% saying they spent more than $1 million on art in 2020. These numbers are encouraging, but the report also suggests that dealers were largely focused on manufacturing. sales to existing customers last year, while finding and nurturing new collectors proved more difficult, particularly in the absence of in-person shows and with many gallery showrooms closed for months. The galleries’ collector bases have grown from an average of 64 clients in 2019 to 55 clients last year.
“A lot of galleries have really leaned on their existing customer base to make sales, and they’ve pushed sales with customers they already know,” McAndrew said. But “people are exhausted, people don’t buy every year. Galleries need to keep refreshing their customers over time or they don’t have those established customers for the future.